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Cover by: Anneka Demetriou


Published by Smartass Publishers

ISBN: 9781999599904

All characters and events in this

publication, other than those clearly in

the public domain, are fictional and

any resemblance to real persons, living

or dead, is purely coincidental

Copyright © 2021 by James Agerholm

All rights reserved. No parts of this

publication may be reproduced, stored

on a retrieval system, or transmitted, in

any firm or by any means, without the

prior permission in writing of the


For my parents and sister.

James Agerholm

“In the midst of chaos there

is also opportunity.”

- Sun Tzu

The Art of War


A glimpse – or not even that – just a

sliver of that early-morning sunlight

shined through the slits between the

white shutters that fell down in front

of the window. This caused the light to

scatter and fly across the room;

seeming as if an angel’s halo had been

thrown in and smashed apart into thin,

long, sharp slices of luminescence that

raced across the room with glee. Alison

squinted, put her hands in front of her

face to stop the sheering, bright light

blinding her, and she pushed herself

up so that she could swing her legs off

the bed. She padded along the blue

bedroom’s fake wool carpet to the

window, where she reached upwards

and dragged the white string

downwards so hard that the shutters

shot upwards rapidly; sounding like a

set of sails of a galley being drawn up

in a gale. The view was spectacular;

white sand stretched as far as the

horizon from which the bright yellow

sun was rising slowly up into the rich,

cloudless, navy sky; shining down

onto the desert below. She smiled,

turned around, put on a long white t-

shirt and went off to get breakfast

Chapter 1


Sam pushed his chair backwards

quickly and viciously away from his

fake marble-textured, white painted

wooden desk. Even though its legs

were finished with black, smooth

rubber wheels, these still caused a

howling screech as the oak wooden

floor, unsuccessfully, resisted being

refashioned with deep, undesirable

tread marks. The sound from this

bounced on and off the bleached white

walls of the cavernous, crowded, but

otherwise deadly quiet hall-like office

that he was sitting in. This sat at the

top of a towering, grey concrete

skyscraper in the middle of the city,

looming over the thousands of

individuals and vehicles that buzzed

around its foundations; working

tirelessly to support the infinite and

merciless needs of the wires that kept

Sam and his colleagues’ society


He glared at the numbers in the

Excel window on the white HD screen

in front of him; something was wrong,

he knew it – someone had messed up.

After he had counted up

everything again, he calculated the

progression of the profits and it

ecame obvious that there was less

than there should be. He entered the

numbers into several types of statistic

and financial software programs that

were available to him and his

suspicions were confirmed. And so,

after he had processed them into a zip

format, he dragged all the files onto his

personal email and flew them off to his

manager whom he hoped would have

a much better understanding about

this than himself.

In less than ten minutes he felt his

phone, surprisingly not his office one,

chirping at him from the inside pocket

of his black jacket that sat on the back

of his office chair. He reached back and

picked it up.

“Yes?” he asked, with that sharp,

arrogant and slightly disingenuous

tone that he had unintentionally

picked up in only the last few months

that he had been working in the city.

“Mr. Patel can you please come to

my office?” It was, unsurprisingly to

Sam, his boss.

“I’ll be there in a second.”

After walking quickly across the

same wooden floor that appeared in

every office of the building, Sam

reached the red door of his boss’ office.

It had the name, Alex Golding,

stencilled in fake gold italic letters at

the top of the doorframe. He knocked


A voice from inside called out -

“Come in!”

Sam twisted the steel handle

downwards and pushed the door


“Ah, Mr. Patel, thank you for

coming,” said the sharp-faced figure

that Sam knew was his boss, Alex,

despite never having talked to him

before. He was at least in his early

fifties or older but he had the physique

of someone in their late thirties who

frequently visited the gym.

“My pleasure.” Sam replied just a

bit too quickly really for his own


“Sorry, we don’t really have time

for the normal pleasantries.” Alex

commented with a twitch on the right

side of his lips and a glance at his

computer screen before he said to Sam,

while still looking at the screen. “It

would seem you have discovered

something that might interest me.

Could you please show it to me


“Of course.”

And Sam grabbed one of the

wooden, wheelie chairs that were

stacked up in the corner of the office,

rolled it over to the desk and sat down

beside Alex. He quickly located and

defined the figures that he had

discovered, dragged them onto a new

file and showed the estimates of the

profits and the losses of the company’s

investments in several international

research companies that sold patents to

other, much larger, pharmaceutical


“Right.” said Alex to Sam while he

was flickering the cursor across the

screen, “I see, that should be quite easy

to fix now we know. Thank God you

saw this before it became irreversible. I

can see you’re going to go far with us.”

Sam grinned, “No, thank you, I’m

glad I could help.”

Sam left Alex’s room with a bit of a

swagger. He had only been there just

over a month, but he had already

contributed to the fundamentals. Even

more importantly, the big man of the

department had noticed him - things

are going well he summarised to


He felt light hearted for the rest of


the day and all the data recording;

which he normally found suicideprovokingly

dull, went like nothing. It

got to five o’clock and all his

colleagues were starting to leave so he

shut down his laptop and filed the

papers that he had been analysing that


Nothing else out of the ordinary

had sprung up on him so he stood up,

put his jacket back on and wandered

off to the elevators on his floor. He

worked very high up in the building,

so it was going to take him quite some

time to reach the ground floor of the

seventy-seven-floor rise skyscraper. It

was also rush hour, so the elevator

stopped at nearly every floor to allow

another influx of people to get on.

After about thirty floors, Sam

found himself shoved into the back

corner of the elevator. To his right

there was a forty-something large,

balding man, who looked like he had

let himself go. He could feel his heavy

built, sweaty frame pushing him

backwards into the form of a pretty

woman who was about his age. He

quickly apologised.

“I’m so sorry, there’s this guy on

my other side who’s taking a bit more

space than he really should be.”

She looked up at him with

sparkling green eyes.

“Ha…that’s fine, don’t worry. This

is my first week here so I’m just

adjusting to this new environment of

mine.” and she flashed a big grin at

him with its white, symmetrical teeth.

He smiled back. “It’s going take us

a long time to get to the bottom floor.

What’s your name?”

“Anouska, or my friends call me

Nousk. I work for the health insurance

department on the fiftieth floor. It’s a

bit depressing really. What do you


“I’m Sam, I work for the finance

analysis department, based on the

seventy fifth. Normally it’s not a lot of

fun, but it does have its perks.”

They continued their social banter

until the machine stopped at another

floor and there was a jolt. This time a

larger influx of people entered the

elevator and the bigger man was

budged backwards. This separated

Sam and Anouska, and pretty quickly

they both found themselves in

different groups of identically suited

business people on opposite sides of

the lift.

Sam tried to get up onto his tiptoes

so he could see where she was, but

even though he was tall, Anouska was

completely hidden by the crowd of

tailored fabric that surrounded her.

Feeling disappointed, he dropped back

onto his heels and thought that,

maybe, he could catch her when they

got to the ground floor.

For the next ten minutes or so Sam

stood there listening to the office

banter of mostly middle-aged men and

women. These conversations were

limited; particularly as they were

generally orientated around the topics

of their partners, houses, mortgages or

their children. Sometimes a comment

about a football team that someone

supported would turn up, which was a

bit of a relief. The tiny free surface area

of the elevator became tighter and

tighter every it stopped and Sam was

pushed further and further back into

the corner. He could feel his heart rate

spiking and his breathing becoming

faster and faster as the population of

the lift increased exponentially every

time the machine stopped.

Eventually, he felt the elevator

resting to its final position on the

ground floor and its steel, curved

double doors sprang open to the

whitewashed lobby of the bank. Sam

felt his shoulders relaxing, his

breathing slowing and his heart rate

returning to its normal rate as people

started to walk out.

He was nearly the last person to

leave, so he peered around trying to

see Anouska in the crowd of men and

women who were now rushing home

like a swarm of black beetles; fighting

over each other to reach their prey.

There must have been hundreds of

them he guessed as he followed, or

was more pushed by, them out of the

building, where he quickly found

himself in the limestone paved

courtyard which had preened flower

pots and emerald green coloured

bushes dotted all around it. These were

supposed to reduce the city’s frantic,

usy ambience that stood only twenty

yards away over the very high grey

concrete walls that enclosed the


He looked around and saw Nousk.

She was sitting there quietly on a dark,

wooden bench on the other side of the

courtyard, adjacent to a bright bush

with yellow dandelions shooting from

its roots. He started walking towards

her, but when he was not even halfway

there, he saw a broad shouldered,

slightly taller man than himself,

approaching her. He noticed her

looking up at him from the phone that

she had been texting on and she stood

up, took a couple of steps towards him,

gave him a kiss on each cheek and

hugged him tightly.

Sam shrugged and said to himself.

Maybe not this time, I have had a

constructive day at work, you can’t have

everything you wish for. There are always

more fish in the sea and all that.

He walked out into the busy, loud,

frantic environment of the road outside

of the courtyard and put himself onto a

bus to get home.


He got off at the bus stop on the

high street and started walking back to

his flat on the first floor of a white,

Edwardian built terraced house that

sat a bit back away from the pavement

of a wide thoroughfare. Sam could

hear the sound of the traffic roaring

along it even in the earliest hours of

the morning when he was in bed. Even

though he hadn’t been there that long,

he now felt that he might have

problems sleeping without that nearly

continuous, whirring noise buzzing

through his windows. He blundered

along, smiling at the very wellgroomed

oak trees that ran all along

his road. It was beautiful, as the sunset

shined through the autumn, orangetinted

leaves that now looked

relatively sparse compared to what

they had looked like only that

morning, and he could feel the fallen

under his feet. These felt as if they had

all massed together and had been

cemented onto the pavement as some

sort of an organic, artificial, wool-like,

novel compound that cushioned every

step he took nicely.

He rented a small studio flat and,

with his already decent salary, he

probably could have afforded a much

better and a bigger place, but he didn’t

want to look like a snob and anyway, if

it was smaller, there was less space

that he had to keep clean. Not that his

accommodation was ever particularly

very well looked after, but he

definitely felt less guilty if the area of

disarray that he personally oversaw

was relatively small.

On his way home he saw an old

man in a large black raincoat sitting

against a brick wall. This was good

because Sam could feel that it had

started to rain, with a splatter of the

drops flickering down onto his face.

The old man also had a small damp,

dark grey mongrel lying beside him

with rain drops quickly running down

onto its nose and off its tip.

He crouched down in front of the

man and offered him the still sealed

packet of salt and vinegar crisps that

he had put into his jacket pocket before

he got onto the bus but had completely

forgotten about due to his thoughts

about Anouska.

“Thank you,” said the old man,

who took it, opened the packet and

quickly started consuming its contents,

with old smiling wrinkles appearing

upon his cheeks.

Sam patted the head of the dog

gently, smiled back at the man, stood

up and walked back home.


After Sam had eventually shoved

the front door of the house open - still

a bit stiff due to the recent restoration

of the building - he climbed up the

new steel staircase and onto the first

floor, unlocked his flat’s navy coloured

door and threw his tailored black

jacket onto a two-seated sofa.


He slept well that night until his

mobile woke him up with that

annoying “good morning, it’s before

eight” rhythm ring tone.

The sun hadn’t even risen yet and,

except for the poor lighting outside

that reached through the window’s

curtains from the street lights and the

front lights of the few speeding cars

that drove along the road at this time

in the morning, there was only

darkness. He grabbed at his lamp’s

switch, pressed it and he could now

see where his mobile had fallen down

from his bedside table and onto the

floor with its power cable still plugged

into the wall socket. He picked it up

and brought it up to his ear.

“Sam! Sorry to call you at this time

in the morning, but we need you to

come to the office ASAP.” It was Alex,

and he sounded especially worried.

Sam frowned, “Sure, no problem,

although can I at least ask why you

need me at this ungodly hour?”

“I’ve been talking to the CEO of

the Bank in the States about the data

that you discovered and we have

decided that, as you were the one who

discovered it, you might be able to give

us a better idea of the possibilities and

situations we might find ourselves in.”

“I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

“Very good, I’ll see you soon.”

Sam put on the same clothes that

he had worn the day before from a pile

of unwashed clothes that he had left on

the floor just beside his bed, cleared his

throat and woke himself up quickly

with a glass of water from the sink. He

ran out of the house and got to the city

centre only twenty minutes after he

had put the phone down.


“Thank you for coming at such

short notice.” Alex said to Sam while

taking the phone away from his ear

and gesturing towards him to sit

down, “could you please - just broadly

- explain what you saw yesterday. I’ve

already described the problem to our

superior and the possible options that

we can take. I could try to explain

more, but he wants to hear it from the

horse’s mouth, as that old saying


Sam took the phone and, after the

normal niceties of a conversation

etween a boss and his employee, he

slowly explained the figures and the

time lines that he had seen the day

before. After five minutes of him

babbling in numeric and algebraic

phenomena, the American on the other

end of the line eventually interrupted

him and said that he was very grateful

and was now satisfied about what Sam

had told him and asked him to return

the phone back to Alex.

Alex, who had been leaning back

in his black office chair while looking

at Sam intently when he had been on

the phone, took it back with a smile

and apologised again about the early

morning call. He then suggested, or

more ordered, Sam to go home and

have the rest of the day off.

Sam left the skyscrapers’ courtyard

entrance and walked into the high

street that was already starting to get

busy. He suddenly became aware of

the lack of sleep he had had and he

could barely keep himself awake on

his way back home. He sat on the top

floor of the bus; wishing that glass was

made of a much softer material, as he

kept banging the left side of his head

into the window every time the double

decker vehicle jolted or shuddered to a


Eventually he got to the stop that was

closest to his home and got off through

the double glass doors of the bus after


they had opened with a hiss and

screech. Nearly as soon as both of his

feet where on the pavement, there was

a sound that could be directly

referenced to something between a

deep sigh and an expression of great

relief as the doors behind him closed

with the satisfaction that only an

inanimate object could possibly have.

He stood at the edge of the curb of the

long road near to his home. He had

been living there long enough to know

that the next pedestrian crossing was

more than five minutes away, there

and back, and it would be easier and

quicker if he just quickly crossed the

road from where he was standing now.

He looked both ways and the road

wasn’t very busy. It was also only six

thirty in the morning and the traffic

tended not to appear until at least

seven so Sam started to cross the road,

wishing for his bed. He had only got

two thirds of the way across when he

suddenly heard the sound of brakes

being pressed down sharply with a

deafening screech. Then everything

went black.










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